What I Really Want

What I Really Want

It’s RARE I have a morning alone.  But today is one of those blessed days.   I mean, I love my kiddos and my man — don’t get me wrong — but the kids spent the night at Aunt Jessica’s (after a day of negotiating and some serious 10-year old manipulation.  That kid should be a lawyer!), and the husband had an early morning appointment with a pool.

So, I’ve had some time to study and plan and reflect (and clean) and the Lord has softly spoken to my heart and asked me to share.  I’ll make this quick because the troops will march back home any minute.

Jesus is my first love.  I don’t understand exactly how He has won me over, but He has.  By His grace.  Because heaven knows I’m self-centered and arrogant and without the grace of God I’d be a hot mess.  But His pursuit is real and the more I surrender, the more I change.  And this morning I can honestly say that more than anything in life I desperately WANT EVERYTHING God has for me.  I want to know Him.  I want to be used by Him.  I want to make a difference in the lives of people around me for His glory.  I really do.  My heart aches toward that goal everyday.  And I’m asking Him for it.  Finally.

Everyday.

I don’t always obey.  I don’t always get it.  I fail more than I even want to think about.  I’m so far from perfect and so far from being like Jesus I don’t even know how any of it is possible, but it IS what I want.

Here’s what hit me as I was watering some plants on my balcony: MOST people don’t.  My heart physically hurts this morning, burdened by the reality that most people I interact with on  a daily and weekly basis, at their core do not care about what God wants for them.  At least not enough for it to matter.

Many of them are Christians.  At least they say or think they are one.

It makes me so sad.  Sad is the best word to describe it.  Not like a “You’re so sad you make me sick” attitude.  No.  A genuine sadness born out of God’s love for others.  He so beautifully and willingly wants people’s hearts, wants to bless, wants to give, wants to have a relationship with them, wants to change them, wants to heal them, wants to give them a life of purpose and abundance, wants to LOVE them — but no.

People don’t want what God wants.  People don’t really want God.  They may want the blessings of God, but they don’t really want Him and they don’t want more than anything else the things He wants.

And I’m guilty too.

Which also makes me sad.

There are days that I MORE want success in business, affirmation from people and security in life.  Safety.  Comfort . The American Dream.  I want those things sometimes.  But, once God gets a true hold on your heart and His truth has penetrated your mind, you can’t really stay there.  You go back to Him and slowly but surely your desires change and you just want Him.

I don’t know how it all looks.  I don’t know how it all will work itself out. I just know that with every fiber of my being I want all God has for me and I want it for you too.

What do you really want?


Why I Trust God Today

I should be working right now.  I have two keynotes, a personality training, three Bible classes to teach, a radio interview and serious preparations for a trip oversees in the next week, but, instead, I feel inspired to write.

This message is for you if you are a discouraged, unsure or insecure follower of Jesus Christ.  Yes, I realize we wouldn’t normally list those adjectives to describe our Christianity, but can we just be real for five seconds?  Listen, I have been there.  Hear me, I have done that.  But, what I hope to communicate to you so that you KNOW it with every fiber of your being, is that God IS faithful to what God IS doing.

Even if you don’t see it.

Seven years ago, I knew the Lord was leading me to teach a Bible class at my church for young women.  I was raised in church and had led many Bible studies.  I had been speaking at that point for five years before live audiences and had done years of television hosting and radio spots, so the “talking to people” part didn’t phase me.  Even the Bible part didn’t scare me then.  (Although, let me say, the more I study the Bible, the more I understand how little I knew and how scared I should have been and how little I still know even today!)

Nevertheless, a year later the class was launched for women 18 – 30 years old.  Just refer to a flyer posted around church!  Come one, come all!

Well, they did come, all two of them at first.

Over time, more women joined.  Some quit coming, some moved away, and one became a missionary, but several of them just kept coming back, again and again and again.  For the last six years, I have poured my heart and soul in to these girls.  It hasn’t been easy.  Consider all that comes with giving birth to two babies myself — totaling three dependents — traveling and speaking, writing a book, being self-employed with my man and building a house.  Life has been FULL.  I really cannot overstate this.  But, God made sure teaching these women was a priority.  In THIS season.  Now.  It made no sense to me.  There were many weeks I WANTED A BREAK.  A long break.  An I-will-do-it-when-my-kids-are-older break!

No such break was granted.

So, the journey continued and what a journey it has been.  Together, we experienced the joy of marriages, the ugliness in marriages, the progression of pregnancies, the blessing of babies, the exhaustion of child-care, the difficulty of parenting, the sorrow of great losses, the heart-ache of addictions, the diagnosis of life-altering illness, the sting of rejection, the mark of divorced parents, the hurt of past relationships, the sting of current relationships, the weight of conflict, the fear of cancer, the reality of cancer, the battle within decision making, the sacrifice of commitment and the weight of conflict.  I have laughed hysterically with these women, no doubt offended them, failed them, embarrassed them, wept with them, prayed fiercely for them, been scared to death of them, been frustrated by them and twice, nearly quit on them. (That will be a surprise if they are reading this.)  But, THROUGH IT ALL, God was miraculously changing our lives, changing us at our core, transforming us into the image of His son.  We will never be the same.  We have seen our God speak, work, move, heal, reconcile, restore, make new, set free, bring friendship, provide finances, comfort, teach, answer prayer, call people to His kingdom, promote people in His service and fill us with the power and victory of His Spirit! I am telling you, He has done what only He can do!  We have lived it!

And I am so grateful. Really.  Truly.  Grateful.

Yesterday — and probably the reason I had to get this into print and off my mind and heart today — it all came full circle.  At least for me.  I asked these girls, my sisters, to explain what this journey has been like for them.  To hear them share what God has done in them and for them and through them was rewarding, but more importantly humbling and glorious.  God is so so ridiculously good at what we does — REDEMPTION.  And then, by God’s timing, we celebrated together over lunch.  (A rare thing as all of us have multiple children!) But, we got away for the afternoon, high-jacked the church van and all!  Confession: I may have been the only one who actually knew a celebration was taking place, but in the private places of my heart, I was absolutely overwhelmed and overcome with joy and gratitude to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ for all He has accomplished as I looked around that table and thought of the others who could not attend.  I sit here still in amazement.  It took so long; but it happened so fast.

And while one journey seems to have come to a conclusion, I am so very excited for what He has in store.

You see, two weeks ago, I did quit.  Well, not really.  With God leading, I moved on.  He transferred my attention to a whole new group of women.  Younger women.  A new class.  A new group of strangers with fresh faces and fragile hearts.  I should have been thrilled, but I’ll admit, two weeks ago I was a discouraged, unsure and insecure follower of Jesus Christ.

But not now.

Teaching God’s Word, living on mission, investing in people, knowing and experiencing the one true and living God and making Him known, all of it works!  This is God’s plan.  This is discipleship.  This is the great movement of multiplication.  This is Christianity.  And this is what I live for.

As I stared into the faces of my new class, a group hand selected and chosen by God Himself, my heart smiled.  They have no idea what’s coming!  I’m excited for them because I KNOW God IS faithful to what God IS doing.

And, let me just convince you now, you want to be a part of it; because when it comes full circle, whether in six days or six months or six years, it is so very worth it!

 


The Curse of a “Good” Life

I’m sure your life is good.  Normal.  Your life is a perfect picture of someone living out the American dream.  Life is not perfect.  You have your ups and downs.  But, you have a family and have landed a decent job.  Fun, social events and day trips fill your calendar.  Maybe you even attend church sometimes.  Anyone observing your day-to-day activities would conclude that things are, well, good.

Tonight as I sat in my living room floor, Bible open, King Hezekiah study on my lap and listening to a young woman who attends our weekly gathering talk, I realized something.   She was right.  While I don’t think she’d mind, I’ll keep her name to myself, but she said, “I don’t think most people realize how miserable they are.  They have nothing else to compare their life to.”  She went on to explain that before she started following Christ, she thought she had a great life.  She wasn’t unhappy.  She wasn’t depressed.  She wasn’t even looking for something different.  She was normal.

I pray someone reading this right now feels that same way — good and normal.  You are whom I’m talking to today.  Have you ever considered that there is more?  Have you ever wondered why “radical Christians” act the way they do?  They commit their lives to serving a God they can’t see, are passionate about church activities and Bible study and they do some weird things.  Perhaps they go out of their way, unnecessarily in your opinion, to take strong stands on issues and you feel sorry for them when they get slammed with the “don’t judge me” card.  Why do they care so much?  You don’t get it.  You respect it, but you don’t get it.

May I challenge you with something?  What if for one year, 2014, you determined to explore what they seem to have found?   What if you joined a Bible study and went to church regularly?   Not a church where tradition reigns.  Go to one where Christ is King and everyone knows it.  Go to one where the Bible is read and taught and God is praised.  Go to one where people are focused on sharing the good news of salvation around the world.  Participate in the classes and learn the teachings.  Ask hard questions and as you grow in knowledge continue to consider  “is there more?”

What might your life be like in a year if you did that?  Is that too weird to even ask?

When my friend started paying attention to God and began to understand what it meant to be a Christian, her life didn’t really change.  Same family.  Same job.  Same social events.  But she changed.  Her heart changed.  Her mind changed and eventually most everything else did to.  She found truth, joy, peace and purposes she’d never known existed.  She learned of God’s love and began to desire His best.  Soon, the old life…you know, the normal, good one…was no longer appealing and it certainly was no longer enough.  She tried to go back, but she couldn’t.  She was miserable in the life that used to seem so good.  She had to move on with Christ.

Over and over again I’ve heard stories so similar to this one.  I call it the Jesus effect.  Having a relationship with Him changes people…. as it should.  HE CHANGES PEOPLE. The beautiful thing is that it is always for the better.

Could it be that you presume your life is good because you’ve never experienced God’s best?  Once you taste His goodness, nothing else satisfies. Every time I’ve been tempted — and I have — to abandon my faith and walk away from my beliefs, I’m left with nowhere to go.  Who can compare to my God?  What other truth can I stand on?  What else can I build my life on?  To whom shall I go?  Better is one day in the courts of my God than a thousand elsewhere.

If I sound crazy, you’ve been cursed with a good life.

I dare you to come and see.


What if Pope Francis is right?

Pope Francis recently asked if God would forgive those who do not believe in him.  (Read about it here.)

His response, according to the Guardian:

“Given – and this is the fundamental thing – that God’s mercy has no limits, if He is approached with a sincere and repentant heart,” the pope wrote, “the question for those who do not believe in God is to abide by their own conscience. There is sin, also for those who have no faith, in going against one’s conscience. Listening to it and abiding by it means making up one’s mind about what is good and evil.”

Now there is a lot of taking the Pope out of context, such as The Independent, which ran the headline “Pope Francis assures atheists: You don’t have to believe in God to go to heaven.”  I don’t believe that the Pope is saying atheists go to heaven as some papers are trying to say, but it does seem like a plausible interpretation that the Pope is saying that following the conscience is the main thing atheists need to do because going against it could mean sin.

So, is the Pope right or wrong? 

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That’s the wrong question to ask.

Let’s assume the Pope is right, and in some ways I think he is.  I agree that “God’s mercy has no limits, if He is approached with a sincere and repentant heart.”  But I’m willing to go a step further. Let’s just pretend that the Pope really was saying that atheists could go to heaven if they would just act according to their consciences.

Would it be good news if just “following our consciences” was the answer? I say NO.

People are excited about the prospect that the Pope, who is kind of the BMOC of religion in the world, might have said that essentially following your conscience is enough is because of an underlying assumption that people are good.  People are not good.  Their, our, consciences are corrupted.  But even if our consciences were perfect, we all violate what our conscience tells us. So, if following our consciences was the answer, we would all be in trouble.

So regardless of what the Pope did or didn’t say, the real questions to ask are these:

1. Am I truly good?

2. If not, how on earth can I fix it?

The short answers:

1. No.

2. You can’t.

These questions essentially capture the whole story of the Bible.  We’re broken.  From Adam and Eve, (who broke a command) to Cain (who didn’t break a command but still sinned, and I would dare say, violated his conscience) to Paul the great evangelist who cries out from his heart, “who shall rescue me from this body of death?!” we are all sinners.  We are all spiritually dead.

So God intervened and sent the son to take on all our deadness and give us life.  And that’s what the Gospel is really all about.  The Gospel isn’t about making bad people good; it’s about making dead people live.

16 “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes (*Present tense) in Him shall not perish, but have (*Present tense) eternal life. 17 For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him.” John 3:16-17 NASB   “*” denotes editors note.

But for those of you who still think that what the Pope maybe, hopefully said is true, keep reading.

18 “He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. 19 This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil.”.

 

 

 

 

 


Prayer is good, but…

Yea, my first blog post as part of Life in Progress Ministries!  Very exciting times.  Klinton, myself and our spouses are anticipating that God will accomplish great things and open many doors of opportunity for this ministry.

I want to share something on my mind and heart today, a conviction really.  All of us can relate to going through times when we had no clue what to do.  We had no clue what our next move should be, no clue what to think or how to behave.  So, we began to pray.  Prayer is good.  Prayer changes things.  There IS power in prayer.  Prayer is the way we communicate with God; giving thanks, asking for provision, begging for help, repenting of sin…you know the drill.  But, have you ever considered that prayer is an incomplete way to communicate with God?

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Klinton and I were discussing this morning how desperately we need fresh knowledge of God.  We need to know who He is and what He wants.  God is an incomprehensible and complex being. (Which is what makes a relationship with Him forever thrilling!) There is so much to know!  Ironically, as I minister to women,most — if not all — are faithfully praying.  They need help.  They need encouragement.  They need comfort.  They need answers.  They need hope.  They NEED.  And prayer is a proper response.  Please don’t get me wrong.  But, I’m wondering if prayer is enough?  Prayer is YOUR word to God.  What you and I most need is HIS word to us.  We need knowledge for decision making, knowledge for understanding, knowledge for comfort, and knowledge for life.  We need to know.

I have been guilty of only praying and expecting answers.  I’m learning that God speaks to me through prayer, but more directly and more personally through His word.  There have been times in my life that I have tried to take spiritual shortcuts to get answers.  I’ve asked someone else, read articles, watched TV programs and read blogs.  To be honest, at times the answers I found did pacify, but they never satisfied.  I’ve learned not to sacrifice Biblical knowledge under the banner of prayer.  Pray.  Prayer is beautiful and necessary.  But, also open your Bible and discover God for yourself.  Reading and studying and meditating on the Word of God is life-changing and life-giving.  It is the Word that gives life.  Jesus said,  “it is the Spirit who gives life, the flesh profits nothing.  The words that I speak to you are spirit and they are life.”  Jesus said man should not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God. God’s word should be life to the believer.  Yet, so few self-proclaimed believers know the Bible.  Does anybody else see the problem?

I love these verses that so eloquently explain why we have the written Word:

For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the scriptures we might have hope.  Romans 15:4 (ESV)

All scripture is given by inspiration of God and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.  2 Timothy 3:16-17

The more I study the Bible, the more I realize how much I need it and how complete it is in covering my every need; spiritually, emotionally, intellectually and physically.   It is the scriptures that change me.  It is the scriptures that reveal God to me.  It is the scriptures that give me hope, purpose and direction for my life.  Sadly, I am often guilty of passively reviewing the Bible or depending on someone else to teach me what it says and what it means.  The Holy Spirit desires to be our teacher…God…your teacher.  Who better?  Don’t take the shortcuts for finding answers.  Gain the knowledge you need for your life.  Pray.  Go to church.  But, take time to study and examine God’s word for yourself.

“The scriptures are written for our use and benefit, as much as for those to whom they were first given.  Those are most learned who are most mighty in the Scriptures.”  Matthew Henry